Letter: Crane's good intentions violated by museum
To the editor:
Most museums honor their founder on the 100th anniversary of his death. I said "most."
This year marks 100 years since Berkshire Museum founder, Zenas Crane, passed from this earth. But rather than honor their founder with fundraisers or other events, the trustees have chosen to dishonor Crane's legacy by announcing plans to dismantle his collection of fine art and gut the building he worked so diligently to construct.
Crane spent the last 15 years of his life caring for the museum, adding several additions to the building and many priceless paintings to its galleries. He requested his friends, relatives, and others, give their art to the museum to build its collections. He specifically asked for paintings!
Upon his death, in 1917, Mr. Crane left the Berkshire Museum $200,000. That was the largest sum from his estate left to any single institution. And there were many benefactors. Only family members received more than the museum.
When Crane and others donated their art to the museum, they believed it would remain in Pittsfield forever! That was their intent and expectation — to have their art remain in Pittsfield forever! Massachusetts law required it to remain.
To make the museum accessible to all county residents, Crane chose the central location of Pittsfield for his museum. The Berkshire Museum became Mr. Crane's creation, his "window on the world" meant for his fellow Berkshire County citizens.
His love of nature is why he included the nature collections. But it is also why he was attracted to the fine Hudson River School paintings. They were a way to combine nature and fine art into one gift! Nothing could represent Mr. Crane's love of nature and art better than those exquisite paintings!
"Here He Still Liveth" is etched into a plaque inside Berkshire Museum. It is dedicated to Zenas Crane. One has to wonder if it will still apply once the museum has been gutted and Mr. Crane's paintings and other treasures have been auctioned off.
The writer is a native of Pittsfield.
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